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May 2024 Update


November 2023 Update

As we continue to examine scripture and commentaries on scripture, we are sharing links to references that you might like to engage alongside us.
While we’d love to share a comprehensive list of scriptural references that are relevant to the topic of female eldership, we don’t believe this is feasible. For example, in the book Two Views on Women in Ministry (see below), the scripture index includes hundreds of scriptural references across more than 50 books of the Bible. Fewer scriptural references are more commonly cited; we have shared these below. However, please remember that engaging this topic more completely will likely lead you to engage broadly in scripture.

Genesis 1:26-28

Genesis 2:18

Genesis 3:16-19

Genesis 4:7

Judges 4:4

Acts 2:17

Acts 18:26

Romans 12:3-8

Romans 16:3

Romans 16:7

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

1 Corinthians 14: 34-35

Galatians 3:26-28

Ephesians 4:11-13

Ephesians 5:21-28

1 Timothy 2:11-15

1 Timothy 3:1-7

Titus 2:3-8

Two Views on Women in Ministry

As an elder board, we are currently reading Two Views on Women in Ministry. This book is written by James R. Beck (Editor), Stanley N. Gundry (Series Editor), Linda L. Belleville (Contributor), Craig L. Blomberg (Contributor), Craig S. Keener (Contributor), and Thomas R. Schreiner (Contributor). It is, in our opinion, a thorough and exegetically robust book on the subject of women in leadership. The book is organized as a debate in written format. There are four contributors, 2 of whom hold a complementarian view and 2 of which hold an egalitarian view. Each contributor writes a thorough summary and defense of their position, citing the relevant biblical texts and the extra-biblical sources from which they draw their support. The other three authors then write a response to that contributor. This process is repeated to present four positions and three responses for each.

Interestingly, each of the four contributing authors was able to agree on the following statement: “We believe one can build a credible case within the bounds of orthodoxy and a commitment to inerrancy for either one of the two major views we address in this volume, although all of us view our own positions on the matter as stronger and more compelling.” To us, this speaks to a beautiful example of the concept of “charitable orthodoxy.”

A Complementarian Perspective

Matt Chandler is the lead pastor at Village Church, based in Flower Mound, Texas, and the executive director of the board of the Acts 29 Network. Matt preached a sermon to his church, explaining the basis of his church’s commitment to a position inconsistent with female eldership. We believe that Matt’s communication, while by definition imperfect, is clear, well-founded in scripture, and does a good job of outlining some of the basic tenets of this commonly held position.

Matt’s sermon can be found here: Matt Chandler Sermon on Female Leadership in the Church

An Egalitarian Perspective

Tyler Stanton is the lead pastor at Bridgetown Church, which is based in Portland, Oregon. Tyler held a midweek lecture, explaining to his church why and how the elder board arrived at a position consistent with female eldership. We believe that Tyler’s communication, while by definition imperfect, is clear, well-founded in scripture, and does a good job of outlining some of the basic tenets of this commonly held position.

Tyler’s lecture can be found here: Tyler Stanton Lecture on Female Eldership in the Church

An Invitation to the community of South Fellowship

As we continue to lean into the topic of gender and the role of eldership at South, we are committed to considering additional perspectives. If, after considering the references above, you are aware of additional references, apart from scripture, that could bring important additional perspectives, we hope you will consider sharing those materials. Please email Bill Wizeman, the chair of the elder board, at [email protected] to share additional references or to request a copy of the book Two Views on Women in Ministry.

In addition, members of the elder board would consider it a privilege to hear your thoughts on this topic and answer any questions about the process we are engaged in. If you are so moved, please feel free to contact the elders to schedule a time to get together (access each elder’s contact info via our Staff/Elders page).


September 2023 Update

At South’s Annual Meeting on August 27th, we gave an update on our progress regarding the question of female leadership (this meeting is available to watch online). Below is a brief summary of what was shared at the annual meeting:

The question of Female Eldership at South
  • The question of female eldership has been a topic at South Fellowship in some form for many years. The topic was last formally considered by South’s board of elders in 2016 when the board elected to open pastoral roles to women.
  • Based on the lack of clarity concerning South’s differing positions about female pastors versus elders and the existence of an ongoing conversation among some parts of the community, the elder board felt compelled to ask God whether this topic should be a point of study and consideration at South. The elder board felt no pressure from the broader community or culture about seeking God’s will around engaging this topic. After an intentional, prayerful conversation within the elder board through the latter half of 2022, the board conducted a two-day-guided discernment process. During this 2-day discernment process, the elder board sensed clear and unanimous permission from God to engage this question and involve the South community in the conversation.
Listening Forums
  • One of the first steps to involve the community in this process was to host Listening Forums. These forums were designed to allow the elder board to hear from the community and for the community members to hear from one another.
  • In early August, after seven forums with more than 70 participants were conducted, the listening forums phase was completed. The elder board conducted forums until no further participants registered for upcoming forums so that all who wanted to participate could do so.
  • The community of South Fellowship engaged in these conversations with honesty, grace, and thoughtfulness. Many differing views and opinions were shared, but always respectfully and with love for one another. The elder board is heartened and honored to be a part of a community that has engaged this conversation so well!
Next Steps
  • The elder board is committed to anchoring this process in God’s Word. We began this process with an examination of scriptures and commentaries on scripture. We are continuing this and are diving deeper as we go. In the near future, we will share a detailed list of scripture references and commentaries we are studying here on this website. We invite the community of South to study alongside us.
  • We have also invited two experts from Denver Seminary, one complementarian and one egalitarian, to meet with us so that we might further understand the scriptures that are particularly relevant to this question.
  • We are grateful to you, the community of South Fellowship, for engaging this conversation well, and we would very much appreciate your prayers for the elder board and the community during this process.
  • Our best estimate for the time required to conclude this discernment process is mid-2024. However, we intend to take the time to address the question thoughtfully and prayerfully.